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August 12, 2007

Les Miles

THE MODERATOR: Coach has joined us.
COACH MILES: I apologize for being a little late, but this is a cramped schedule. We're trying to adjust two-deeps, kicking teams. Come off a nice scrimmage. You know, we're doing our jobs. Sometimes it doesn't mesh comfortably with the schedule.
We've had 10 straight practices. Guys have worked extremely hard. I think there's improvement in all three phases. I like the position of the team right now. I think we're a ways away from, you know, playing a game. Certainly we're improving. We're getting there.
I can tell you that offensively I think the three new coaches that have joined the staff have done a great job. They're working with some newcomers that will have impact on our offense, trying to get the ball to them. How that all fits is a constant focus and a constant piece of every practice schedule.
But I think they've done a great job getting their players in the right positions and getting an offense called that will reflect our best players.
Defensively I think we're ahead of the offense on that side of the ball. Very talented. Difficult to move the football. They're in their third year. It appears that they're performing well.
I know that, you know, our level of expectation there is very, very high. Certainly there's improvement to be made there. But I think we're in pretty good shape there.
Special teams, looks like our punter's going to punt the ball well. Patrick Fisher, you know, that's a great piece for us, to have a guy that can go back there and boom a ball with real strength.
Our teams are coming. A bunch of guys, a bunch of youthful guys, trying to find two-deep positions, play a lot of football in the teams. There's a lot of competition in that area. Again, moves were made even off the last scrimmage to advantage some of those young guys, get them in position where they could win a job.
Came off the scrimmage with a couple nicks. Jacob Cutrera will probably miss a couple of days, if not longer. Perry Riley, both at linebacker, a little nicked. It appears both will be ready for the first game. Perry might be ready quicker than Jacob.
But I think we've kept Will Arnold out of the mix so he can come on and heal. I think that that's coming along. What we have to do is figure out how much we can count on him. He's getting better in health, but we're going to have to tax him here in the next two weeks to find out exactly what we can count on from him.
I can tell you that rankings and talk of championships are always premature before a season. If you can see fit not to concern yourself overly with that, our football team right now is preparing to be a quality football team and improve in all three areas and be prepared to play extremely well in the opener.
We understand where the rankings are. We enjoy the fact that if we play well and achieve, come the end of the season, that pre-season ranking can put us in a position to play for the title. That's wonderful. But right now it's a two-a-day schedule, hard work, attention to detail, and focus on what is our daily task.
So I enjoy seeing a lot of folks here, see the old regulars, but there's some guys and ladies here you don't get to see every day. So thanks for coming on board. We encourage you to ask a question or two at this point.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the right side Lyle Hitt and Carnell Stewart, also the three young pups, Barksdale, Jarvis Jones and Ernie McCoy, so far how they're looking.
COACH MILES: I think improvement's being made by Lyle Hitt, and Carnell Stewart. I think those guys, it will be hard for them not to be our starters. But, again, they're young. They're learning the position. Their improvement is daily. That's good.
They are being pushed by, in my opinion, a quality group of young offensive linemen in Joe Barksdale being probably the right side behind Carnell, really improving. He's just really come to the offensive side at the beginning of this camp, yet is showing that he has real potential there.
The other young tackles, Jones, is a tough, long, very talented left tackle and will provide us with some depth and ability to play, in my opinion, this year at the left tackle. Previous then Ernest McCoy is a 6'6", 330-pounder, who is going to be as talented a guy as we've had around here. The difference is, he just has to get his bearings in the offense. As soon as he gets that, I think all those guys will play.
But I think a little ahead of that crew would be Barksdale and Jarvis Jones, the two might be a little ahead at the tackle spot, and provide some real competition for our starters there.

Q. You said that the defense right now is ahead of the offense. Is that how wanted it? Would you rather have the offense come along a little slower? Speaking of defense, how is Glenn Dorsey?
COACH MILES: Glenn by health is going to be ready to play next week. It was no more than precautionary. He could have played Saturday, but we just held him out.
I believe that with each team, the veteran piece of that team should be ahead. I enjoy a defense -- the defense doesn't have all of their components in yet either. As the installation continues, the defense will change. The change can be a lot quicker with a veteran group.
I think that you see that right now with our defense. Our guys have lined up in those spots, heard these calls, are pretty comfortable with what's going on there.
It's not necessarily the most important that the defense start fastest, just as long as it comes together as we approach game week, that's all.

Q. What freshmen do you see standing out so far in camp?
COACH MILES: I think there's a number of those guys. I think a young offensive line, it's very unusual for me to talk about a second team freshman offensive tackle, but Joe Barksdale and Jones are exceptional guys.
But you've seen a number of them. Chad Jones, it looks like he's going to be a talented guy, maybe take first snaps and teams. I think Stevan Ridley comes in, a runningback, carrying the ball well, playing well on teams. I think he's going to get snaps and teams.
I think Jarrett Lee is a quality -- I think he had a nice drive in a two-minute drill in a scrimmage yesterday. And Terrance Toliver is a guy who currently may not know exactly the route he's supposed to run, but at 6'4", running fast through the secondary, the quarterbacks find him and toss him the ball. May not be that important that we call the routes for him (laughter).

Q. You just talked about Toliver, especially with Jared Mitchell's injury lingering, how the receivers have played in camp so far?
COACH MILES: Terrance Toliver is a very smooth, gifted athlete. In my opinion, he has great ball skills and will eventually be a very, very talented receiver here. But just coming on board, understanding where he's lining up, what is really expected from him on every play, he's not quite there.
Byrd is probably a little bit behind that because Terrance Toliver was here all summer and got some coaching from Matt Flynn, our quarterback, and may be a little ahead of Demetrius Byrd right now. But Demetrius Byrd is very talented, makes a nice catch. Probably would have scored if it hadn't been a one-hand touch. He has great ball skills, speed, has presence in the secondary.
Again, it's a little early for us to predict how much he'll play or how well he'll do. But, you know, he certainly has all the talent that you'd want.

Q. You talked last night about Kirston Pittman. That's not a name we heard very much out of the last several years. After watching the film of the scrimmage, talk more about him. Was there anything else that stood out from the scrimmage?
COACH MILES: Well, I think our defensive ends are coming. I think there's some real competition at the right end. I think Rahim Alem played well. I think Tremaine Johnson is playing well at the end spot. And Kirston Pittman, you know, probably had two sacks in this scrimmage legitimately.
With that in mind, you know, Kirston Pittman has been -- in our first year, he had a heck of a -- started to have a heck of a spring. About two weeks in, he developed a bad ankle and was slow, didn't play the spring game, then got healthy during the summer. We rode up to the fall, just got dinged again. Found there was a little cyst in his ankle. Having removed the cyst, he lost the entire year.
He was returning again to health, getting ready. Just prior to the season, blows out an Achilles heel and we lose him for another year.
You look at a guy that hasn't played football in two years and you realize that, you know, he'd shown flashes of being a real quality defensive end, but we haven't allowed -- or injury hasn't allowed him to develop his skill.
This is the longest stretch of time that he's been with us and injury-free. He's developing, coming along really nicely. I'm happy for him. There's a guy that, you know, you have two years taken away from you with injury, it's something you're going to want maybe a little bit more. It's been pleasant. I wish him the best.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH MILES: Whatever medical was possible, I'm sure he achieved that.

Q. You talked about the high expectations, how you enjoy being in a place with high expectations. Are you doing anything specifically to address them with the team? You've had high expectations since you've been here. Has it kind of built up to this where it seems a little more this year than the other two years?
COACH MILES: Yeah, it doesn't seem any more or any less to me. The only reason I talk about high expectations today is because, you know, I got a room full of media. The first thing they're going to want to ask is, Hey, you know, aren't you going to be the national champions, the SEC champions, certainly going to win the west, aren't you looking forward to beating this guy, that guy, this guy?
The reality is, that's way the cart before the horse. We got a long schedule of hard work, a lot to accomplish before we can talk about championships. The expectation is there. The hard work and the want is there. But you can't win a championship till you've won a bunch of games. And right now we're preparing to play our first.
I understand them and enjoy them, but don't move too fast.

Q. Have you addressed the team?
COACH MILES: I'm going to address them again today along those lines. But in our first meeting, you know, we talk about rankings. All the same things I just said today I've told the team. You know, understand rankings are like somebody saying you're pretty. It doesn't make any difference unless you're willing to earn your position at the end of the year. And right now we are earning our position for the first game.
One thing about it, in my opinion, the ability to work hard in the heat, the study of our opponents, frankly looking at Mississippi State, saying, 'That's a good football team,' is easy to do. I don't think that our guys are going to be inappropriate and look too far in advance.

Q. The Chad Jones baseball thing, as the summer has gone on, how concerned have you been about that? On a personal note, you won 22 games here in two years. I pick up one national publication and it has you in the 40s as a Division I head coach out of 119. Do you feel disrespected by that or do you even care?
COACH MILES: I was concerned about Chad Jones. I really felt like, you know, it was important to our team that we have a quality safety that could line up there and play, give us snaps and develop because, frankly, I don't think we really recruited in the last two years the safeties that we were after. I think that he was really our first pick. So it was awful important to me. And, yes, I was concerned. Am I in some way concerned today as we talk? Yeah.

Q. Still?
COACH MILES: Still. Only because I know that in his mind things have gone on and he's ready to play here and he's looking forward to going to college and in my opinion play two sports. But I think the Major League Baseball has a deadline of August 15th or the first day of school. He's not taken the first day of school. Money is an unbelievable motivator. You know, I have minimal concern. Certainly it's not unusual that Major League Baseball might make a play at him in the next five days.
But I think after those five days, I really am much less concerned now with his reporting to camp, preparing, the style of guy that he is as he looks forward to playing football.
Now, as far as being ranked as a coach in this country, I could care. I don't think anybody really knows, and I think maybe they ranked me too high, I don't know (laughter). I can only tell you that I enjoy coaching. I enjoy being with this team, especially with this team. If they had to rank enjoyment with this team, I might rank first.

Q. You have 14 guys committed in recruiting this season. I think last year you had a lot of guys committed before the season started also. Could you talk about your strategy in recruiting, how it helps to get those guys committed early.
COACH MILES: One, I think recruiting generally nationally is moving much quicker. I think you're finding that classes are taking shape. I think the student-athletes don't want the hassle of the call, don't want the hassle of recruiting as it's become. I think that those guys that understand where they want to be feel much more comfortable with saying, you know, I'm committed and I want to go, in this particular instance, to LSU.
I also believe that our staff does just a great job, unbelievably serving group of men that are here really year-round, summertime where everybody takes a break. It's all based on, you know, what student-athlete may or may not arrive for an unofficial visit in the summertime. I think our staff does a great job there.
And we've, you know, identified the guys that we want to recruit, gone after them early enough so that we feel like we can be in this position with a quality group of commit-ees before the season. I think you'll find that that number will rise pretty routinely as the season goes on.
I enjoy it. I think as a standard strategy, when you identify the guy that you want, you're available to him, and he's been on our campus enough to know all the opportunities that we have to offer, I think accepting a commitment, for a young guy committing, I think it's a wise plan because then he knows, My scholarship's put away, that school's committed to me, and let's go play high school football because that senior year is still a lot of fun for him.

Q. Does it take a load off your back?
COACH MILES: No. You're still recruiting the same guys. Basically we're a really strong service industry, and recruiting is sales and service. You got to make sure that you display very honestly the opportunity that you have here, and then you have to be available to them, you've got to communicate with them. So there's no real load off the back; it's just really all part of the process.

Q. Talk about opening the season on the road at Mississippi State, national television, and the challenges that that gives you, the things that perhaps you guys are already doing to prepare for that.
COACH MILES: I think, first, the schedule is really unusual. I think this two-a-day schedule, with the idea we're opening on a Thursday has crowded, in my mind, maybe some of these weekends. We've had a need to get more accomplished through the weekend break.
I think that's the first piece that you look at. It's a quality football team with a lot of ability. Obviously it's the early game. I think our team enjoys playing on national television. It's the first. There's a lot of importance in the first. It's also a nationally televised game. I think our guys are looking forward to it.

Q. Can you talk about Ryan Perrilloux and Jarrett Lee, what strengths they both pose. What wide receivers have kind of stepped up?
COACH MILES: Both quarterbacks have very strong arms. I think Ryan probably knows the offense probably a little bit better than Jarrett at this point, but both guys have really strong arms and are very capable quarterbacks, guys that will -- if they continue to progress, will be guys we look forward to quarterbacking our team in the future.
The wide receivers, I've kind of talked about 'em. You're talking about the young guys emerging at wide receiver, right?

Q. Yes.
COACH MILES: I think the two best wide receivers on our team right now are our veterans that returned in Doucet and Brandon LaFell. Those guys, you can count on them to be in virtually every set and every formation and on the field a lot.
I think beyond that, there's a group of veterans that deserve some playing time. R.J. Jackson I think is a guy that you'll see in special teams, in wide receiver sets, that's really making a push. He's been healthy. Moved him from tailback to wide receiver and, in my opinion, is showing well.
With Jared Mitchell out, Chris Mitchell improved, coming, and the newcomers at wide receiver, Terrance Toliver, Demetrius Byrd, those guys will all play, and play key roles in this fall.

Q. One name we didn't hear from you yesterday in your summary in the scrimmage was Crutchfield. Of course, with the new kickoff rule, that position has taken on added importance. Is he sort of the frontrunner? Is he capable of giving you what you need on those kickoffs?
COACH MILES: I think we had three kickoffs in yesterday's scrimmage. Two were handled by Colt David, and one was caught at about the eight yard line, and one was caught at two deep in the end zone. Josh Jasper kicked the other one, and his was five deep. Crutchfield has a quad injury, was not allowed to practice in yesterday's scrimmage. So as that comes, he will eventually, you know, step in there and continue to compete.
But, you know, we're going to have a guy that has a strong leg back in there that will hit it, whether it's Crutchfield or Jasper or Colt David for that matter.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH MILES: Thanks, guys, ladies.

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